Longtime Patient and Patient Advocate to Receive President’s Medal

Lori Hartwell


Lifelong kidney patient Lori Hartwell will receive the President’s Medal for her influential work in patient support and advocacy in a special presentation during the plenary session on Thursday, Nov. 7.

Hartwell has provided an inspiring model for living with chronic disease since her kidneys mysteriously stopped working at age 2. She has survived 13 years of dialysis and more than 40 surgeries. She is now living with her fourth transplanted kidney. The youngest person in California ever placed on dialysis, she continues to beat the survival odds, emerging as an example of how people with chronic illness can lead complete and productive lives.

She founded the patient-led Renal Support Network (RSN) in 1993 to instill “health, happiness, and hope” into the lives of fellow patients. As RSN president, Hartwell travels widely nationally and internationally, educating and inspiring people with kidney disease and health care professionals with her stories, insight, and humor. RSN’s mission is to identify and meet the nonmedical needs of people affected by chronic kidney disease, whether they are in the early stages, on dialysis, or have received a kidney transplant. RSN provides service, support, and advocacy to patients and their families, and works to build coalitions within the renal community.

Hartwell has a long history of work in the field. She began her career as a technical sales specialist for HemaMetrics, developers of a hematocrit-controlled hemodialysis technology. She was western regional sales manager for Medcomp, distributors of vascular access catheters. In these positions, she visited more than 500 dialysis units in 30 states, which gave her a broad view of the renal patient population. She was editor of the medical journal Contemporary Dialysis & Nephrology and the lay journal, For Patients Only.

Her guidebook, Chronically Happy: Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness, describes how to handle lifestyle and other nonmedical issues in the course of chronic disease. She wrote and produced a 60-minute video, “Communication Prescription for the Renal Care Professional,” that shares practical advice, creative communication concepts, and stories of hope from people who live with CKD as well as from renal care professionals. The video won an Aegis Award for production quality.

In her public service positions, she has advised elected officials about how policies impact people with chronic illnesses. She served on the Governors Rehabilitation Council for the state of California. She chaired the Patient Advisory Committee for the Southern California Renal Disease Council and is a board of directors member of the California Dialysis Council and Kidney Care Partners. On the national level, she has advocated with congressional and state leaders about legislative issues affecting the kidney community and testified before the joint advisory committee of the Food and Drug Administration.

October-November 2013 (Vol. 5, Number 10 & 11)